Adding Armor in Iraq
Beset with complaints that troops are going into combat in inadequately armored Humvees, the Army will send an older and less used class of armored personnel carriers to Iraq after spending $84 million to add armor to them.
These vehicles—the M113/A3 armored personnel carrier and the M577 command post carrier—will be both tougher and safer than newly armored Humvees.
Army officials pushed hard over the last two years to get the M113 into duty in Iraq. They said it is more useful, cheaper and easier to transport than the Stryker armored vehicle.
The Army and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld found themselves at the center of a firestorm recently over the pace of adding armor to the Humvee, a small transport vehicle that’s been pressed into service in Iraq as a combat vehicle. Critics feel that even the up-armored Humvee is too easily destroyed by rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The slat-type armor essentially is a metal cage designed to detonate RPGs before they breach the steel armor and the light aluminum wall. Similar slat armor has been added to the Stryker.
The armor kits will be produced in the United States and installed in Kuwait.
More than 80,000 M113s in 28 configurations have been manufactured since they were introduced in 1960, and they still do yeoman duty in many of the world’s armies.
Weighing around 13 tons, the M113 is much easier to transport than the behemoth M1A2 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle or even the Stryker.
The Army has spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying armored Humvees at $150,000 apiece and making special tempered-steel and bulletproof-glass kits to add armor protection to the thin-skinned variety. The demand for armor on Humvees grew as insurgents began pouring RPGs onto American patrols and convoys and detonating deadly homemade bombs in the late summer of 2003.
The current demand in Iraq is for more than 22,000 armor-protected Humvees, a goal the Army says it will meet sometime before March. Its prime focus has turned now to armoring the five models of trucks that travel Iraq’s dangerous roads to supply American forces. (From the Biloxi Sun Herald.)
Intensifying Training for Medics
As the insurgents in Iraq have become more ferocious, the Army has increased the intensity of its training of battlefield medics. Training now takes place in more realistic settings, teaching medics to continue fighting the enemy even if it means delaying treatment of the wounded.
“One medic returning fire can make the difference between the enemy staying and continuing to fire on us, or saying `Whoa, I got to go,’” said CPT Brad Tibbetts, the officer in charge of the Alfred V. Rascon School of Combat Medicine at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
This year, about 500 medics and others who work in small, isolated units will undergo training at the school. They attend the class partly to refresh skills they acquired during a 16-week course at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where all new Army medics take civilian emergency medical technician classes and study battlefield techniques.
Much of the training at the Fort Campbell school is conducted using strikingly lifelike dummies controlled by computers. The dummies bleed, breathe, blink and have a pulse.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans wounded in Iraq are surviving, compared with 73 percent in Vietnam and 78 percent in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. COL Richard Agee, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Medical Department and School, credited better body armor and better training of medical personnel for this rising statistic.
MSG Luis Rodriguez, the NCO in charge of the training at the school, is a former medic who was hit by mortar fire in Iraq. He lost a leg, but the use of a tourniquet helped save his life. He said his first lesson to his students is that the enemy will fire at medics even if they are rendering aid, and the medics must be prepared to return fire.
“The most important piece of equipment isn’t your aid bag, it’s your rifle,” Rodriguez said. “We have to be aggressive and compassionate at the same time. But you have to bring the evil to the enemy.”
Fort Campbell started holding the final test for the class in a dark room after 101st Airborne Division medics returning from Afghanistan said they had not been prepared to treat the wounded without light.
In a recent test, PFC Merinda Karn rushed to the scene with aid bag in hand for a test of her medic skills. The 20-year-old Karn, who weighs about 140 pounds, dragged a 185-pound Soldier about 200 yards before dashing into a dark room to perform necessary life-saving tactics.
She failed her test. In the dark she could not feel an exit wound in the back of her “casualty,” and it “died.” Afterward, the lights were turned on, the sound of taps filled the training room and her instructor came to tell her what she did wrong.
CPT Tibbetts said it is OK to make mistakes in training. “I guarantee she probably won’t miss it again,” he said. (From www.military.com.)
Enlisted Promotions and Reductions
The Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army (G1) is leading an Army-wide effort to consolidate a variety of personnel-related Army regulations. The main initiative is to combine promotion policy and procedures for the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve into one regulation. The regulation is projected for publication in summer 2005. (From the Sergeant Major of the Army Nominative Command Sergeants Major Conference.)
Wartime Baby Boom
Nine months after Soldiers returned home to Fort Carson, Colorado, from Iraq, Evans Army Community Hospital was swamped with mothers-to-be. The hospital had 102 births in December and arranged for an additional 49 Army babies to be delivered at civilian hospitals in nearby Colorado Springs. (From The Washington Post.)
Guard Needs a Break
Looking for new ways to bolster its thinning ranks, the Army National Guard is seeking legal authority to offer $15,000 bonuses to active Soldiers willing to join the Guard—up from $50.
LTG H. Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters that the Guard is 15,000 Soldiers below its normal strength of 350,000, and he expects further short-term declines despite recent gains from tripling reenlistment bonuses for deployed Guardsmen.
If the Guard fails to return to its normal troop level of 350,000 by the end of the budget year on 30 September, it will be the first time that has happened since 1989.
Heavily stressed by longer-than-anticipated combat and support duties in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Guard recently increased first-time enlistment bonuses and added 1,400 recruiters.
In explaining his interest in getting congressional approval for $15,000 bonuses to entice active-duty military members to join the Guard, Blum said he believes he could get 8,000 new Guardsmen this way. He said the existing $50 bonus carries little weight in today’s economy.
Blum said that while he believes the National Guard will be asked to contribute a smaller proportion of the force in Iraq starting in mid-2005, it will remain strapped.
Currently, 44 percent of the Army combat forces in Iraq are Guard troops, he said, and he believes that will drop to the low 20s later this year. Offsetting that, however, is an expectation that the Guard will be required to contribute a larger proportion of the support troops.
Seventy-one of the Guard’s 75 infantry battalions have been committed for duty in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere since President George W. Bush authorized Guard and Reserve mobilizations for the Global War on Terrorism on 14 September 2001. A battalion is considered “committed” if at least 35 percent of its troops are mobilized for active-duty service. Similarly, 33 of the Guard’s 36 armor battalions have been committed in that same time period.
Blum said the Guard has not run out of combat power, but it needs a break.
Among the Guard combat forces that have been put on active duty since September 2001 are 11 infantry battalions and six armor battalions that provided security at airports and other locations in the United States in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In hindsight, he said he wishes he had used non-combat troops for that work.
Blum also said that he has kept his promise to state governors—who control National Guard units during peacetime—that he will not have more than 50 percent of their Guard troops mobilized at any given time. In most states the percent mobilized is well below 50. The only states currently at 50 percent are Washington and Hawaii, he said. (From www.military.com.)
Updating the Sexual Assault Policy
The military will begin providing confidentiality to alleged sexual assault victims in the immediate period after an attack in a policy change designed to persuade more to come forward, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
The change is one of several being fashioned by the Pentagon after a rash of reports of sexual assaults in the Iraq theater of war, at the Air Force Academy and elsewhere in the military.
Currently, the only officer who can promise confidentiality to a victim is a chaplain, said David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. The military proposes to extend that to certain medical personnel and victims’ advocates, and to prevent the commanding officer and others from learning the victim’s identity without consent.
The lack of privacy and confidentiality for service-members reporting sexual assaults makes most victims hesitant or unwilling to report them in the first place. (From www.military.com.)
Bringing Parents to Their Children Through Videotape
A program in Afghanistan enables deployed service-members to videotape themselves reading a story to their children, and then mail both the video and book back home.
The “Read to Your Kids” program at the Office of Military Cooperation–Afghanistan (OMC–A) was made possible through donations of both videos and books by stateside readers of the anysoldier.com website.
The program is MSG D. Keith Johnson’s pet project, and he devotes his one “off” day in Afghanistan each week to its completion.
“While I was in Bosnia, I read an article in ‘Stars and Stripes’ about a similar program on a Navy ship,” said Johnson. “I started the program in Bosnia and completed over 100 tapings there. It was very popular.”
Johnson, the NCO in charge at the OMC–A Public Affairs Office, arrived in Kabul in October and established the program there. He has coordinated the recording of more than 60 tapes. (From the Army News Service.)
Carol Mutter: Catalyst for Evolution
Since Carol Mutter joined the Marine Corps 40 years ago the military has gone through some drastic changes.
“The roles that women . . . fulfill in the military have changed (and) evolved, and women have always been up to the task,” she said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. “They’ve always responded very, very well to new roles, new challenges, and so on.”
Since she retired as a three-star general in 1999, Mutter has helped advance women’s role in the military. Since 2002, Mutter has been chairwoman of the Department of Defense’s Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. In this role, she chairs a committee studying issues pertaining to women and families.
Regarding retention, the committee found that the military retention rate for women officers with families is lower than those for men and for other women without families. In 2005, the committee will delve further into this issue and look more closely at specific items under the umbrella of work-life balance.
The committee also hopes to tackle issues pertaining to deployments, including ensuring military members have sufficient time to spend with their families before deployment, plenty of opportunities for communicating with families during deployment, and enough time to readjust to being part of a family after deployment.
She said that the committee recommended that 100 percent of redeploying servicemembers undergo screening to identify possible readjustment problems after every deployment. “It needs to be everybody—from private to general,” she said. “Because if there are any exceptions, then people will opt out and there will be people who really need help who will not get that help.”
She said more can—and should—be done to prevent sexual assaults and to punish those who commit such crimes. Mutter’s committee recommends that all military agencies need to agree on a single definition of sexual assault to ease reporting and data collection.
“Zero tolerance against sexual assault needs to be a matter of formalized policy from the leadership in the Department of Defense and at every level of command all the way down to the lowest level,” she said.
Looking back upon her achievements, Mutter said, “It’s been very much an evolutionary process. And I believe evolutionary change is more long-lasting change. If you can change it quick then it can be unchanged real quick, too.” (From www.dtic.mil.)
Hotline Foils Insurgents
Leads generated through a hotline to report insurgent activity in Iraq demonstrate that the Iraqi people want to bring an end to the violence against innocent civilians and critical infrastructure.
BG Jeffrey W. Hammond of 1st Cavalry Division said the hotline received more than 400 calls during the past few months. These enabled the coalition to take prompt action—from freeing several women who had been kidnapped for ransom to identifying and destroying vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices that were rigged and ready to explode.
Billboards throughout Baghdad promote the hotline as a way for the Iraqi people to fight the war in secret without fear of backlash. Because of a campaign of intimidation aimed at Iraqis helping to move their country forward, many people were too frightened to reach out for help. Now, thanks to the hotline campaign, “people today are picking up the phone and calling us. They are sharing information,” said Hammond.
Hammond said the hotline and its success have hit a nerve with the insurgents who regularly vandalize billboards promoting the campaign. But Hammond said the 200 billboards around Iraq are replaced as quickly as they’re destroyed. “I’m not going to stop,” he said.
He called the enemy “a selfish minority” whose practices “have no connection whatsoever to the Islam religion” and have no interest in the needs of the Iraqi people.
In Baghdad, the enemy is a mix of foreign fighters, former regime elements, religious extremists and criminals who are trying to impede progress by attacking critical infrastructure and civilians.
Hammond said their tactics—murdering civilians and attacking electrical towers, hospitals and other infrastructure—are part of a no-win plan to instill fear and gain power.
Hammond said the coalition’s and Iraqis’ persistence against the insurgents is paying off. Last Christmas, he said, the coalition experienced a 500 percent spike in attacks. A similar spike was anticipated again this year but didn’t materialize, he said. (From American Forces Press Service.)
The 1,000th Stryker
Production of the 1,000th Stryker vehicle was commemorated during a ceremony on 12 January 2005 at Anniston Army Depot, Alabama, 33 months to the day after former Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki signed for the first Stryker.
The Stryker program is a good example of “public-private partnerships,” said COL Alexander Raulerson, depot commander. He said the program matched the expertise of government and the private sector to improve theArmy.
Anniston assembles two-thirds of the Strykers; the remainder are assembled in Ontario, Canada.
Fuller said the 311 Strykers that have been in Iraq for the last 14 months have logged more than four million miles, with an operational availability rate of 97 percent.
Soldiers have praised the Stryker’s ability to move to a conflict swiftly and, more important, quietly. SGT Benjamin Herman, a team leader from Company C, 1st Battalion, 23d Infantry Regiment of the current Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) in Iraq said some Iraqis call SBCT Soldiers “Ghost Riders” and “Ghost Soldiers” because they arrive with little noise or warning.
The Stryker is the first major combat system purchased by the Army since the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle was acquired in 1988.
The Stryker has ten variants, eight of which have been built and fielded. The Infantry Carrier and Reconnaissance vehicles add up to more than half of those produced so far, totaling 565.
There have been 36 Anti-Tank Missile Guided Vehicles, 53 Fire Support Vehicles, 42 Engineer Squad Vehicles, 129 Mortar Carrier Vehicles, 55 Commander’s Vehicles, and 60 Medical Evacuation Vehicles produced.
The Mobile Gun System and the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical variant are slated to go into production this summer. (From Army News Service.)
ASDT Program Launches for Your Safety
Whether involving a Privately Owned Vehicle (POV), an Army Combat Vehicle (ACV) or an Army Motor Vehicle (AMV), 42 percent of all vehicular accidents occur directly or indirectly because of driver skill errors. The Army plans to do things differently with its driving accident prevention programs, especially now that our nation is at war.
The Advanced Skills Driver Training (ADST) program—a new program targeting Soldiers between the ages of 18 and 24—is designed not to teach how to drive, but how to drive well. Soon to be an Army-wide standardized driving course, the ADST will bridge the gap between conceptual driving and practical application.
With help from General Motors, the Army hopes to train its Soldiers to better interface with the vehicles and the environment through enhanced situational awareness, coordinated motor skills and proactive decisionmaking to establish a core competency for operating vehicles safely. The course instills an understanding of vehicle dynamics and the application of essential driving techniques—such as line-of-sight, path-of-travel, targeting and the use of transition pegs—to safely negotiate seven exercises designed to replicate known hazards and address common driver skill deficiencies.
With studies showing divorce rates as high as about 20 percent over two years among couples where one spouse has been sent off to war, the Army is spending $2 million on a variety of marriage programs including vouchers for romantic getaways. Baby-sitting is often provided.
One program being implemented Army-wide teaches couples forgiveness and the skills to communicate. It includes a 40-hour course with lessons on the dangers of alcohol and tobacco and how to recognize post-traumatic stress. Soldiers who complete it are rewarded with promotion points and a weekend retreat with their spouses.
To make the program more desirable, commanders are encouraged to give their soldiers time off to attend. Baby-sitting is often provided.
The Army’s recent foray into marriage counseling was started in the late 1990s by a chaplain in Hawaii working with a unit with a high number of divorces. In 2001, laws were changed to allow the Army to pay for lodging and meals for the retreats.
The effort is similar to another series of Army programs to help returning Soldiers reconnect emotionally with spouses and children. Those programs began after four wives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina were killed, allegedly by their Soldier husbands, in 2002.
The Army’s effort to save marriages doesn’t just make for stronger families, it makes for better Soldiers. (From www.military.com.)
Developing Technologies to Better Your Uniform
Dressed in black from head to toe and wearing a helmet that barely allowed a glimpse of his face, SSG Raul Lopez looked like something out of a sci-fi thriller.
Lopez, an infantry Soldier stationed at the Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts, spent four days in what could be the Army uniform of the future at the 24th Army Science Conference explaining the technology behind it.
The black fabric of the form-fitting suit will be made through the wonder of nanotechnology, which involves manipulating atoms and molecules to create things at the nanometer scale—about 50,000 times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair.
The helmet is the main hub of the uniform. A tiny video camera in front provides 360-degree situational awareness. A series of sensors inside provide the Soldier with three-dimensional audio and the ability to amplify specific sounds while lowering the volume of others.
Complete voice translation is also provided, for what the Soldier hears and what he or she says. Night vision sensors, minimized to the size of pencil erasers, are also in the helmet. Maps and other situational awareness information are projected on the inside of the visor.
The uniform might be made out of fabric treated with shear thickening fluid (STF), another technology featured in the conference’s exhibit hall. Unofficially referred to by some as liquid body armor, STF is made of equal parts polyethylene glycol—an inert, non-toxic thickening agent—and miniscule glass particles.
In a small glass vial, the light blue liquid is easily stirred with a small plastic stick—as long as the stick is moving in slow, easy motion. When sudden, rapid or forceful motion is applied, the liquid instantly hardens, preventing any movement.
When STF is applied to regular Kevlar material, the fabric’s texture doesn’t change; it looks and feels the same as if it hadn’t been treated. In a test with a swatch of four layers of untreated Kevlar—the normal thickness of body armor—an “attacker” was able to stab a blade through the fabric. But when he used all the force he could muster to stab a section of fabric treated with STF, the fabric couldn’t be penetrated.
Research is being done into whether STF can be of use to the Army. If so, Soldiers may start getting gear treated with it in about two years. (From Army News Service.)
Reserve Retention: Keep Serving!
Active duty Soldiers at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan who are preparing to go back to civilian life get plenty of help if they’re thinking about continuing their service in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve.
“Meeting with our retention officers is part of the pre-separation brief,” said MSG Scott A. Spencer, Reserve Component Retention senior operations sergeant.
After attending a pre-separation brief, Soldiers receive an appointment letter and the opportunity to meet one on one with a retention officer. For deployed Soldiers who know this is an option they want to explore, the Army Reserve Affairs (ARA) office is there to help.
Although the assignment packet can be prepared early, Soldiers may not actually submit their packets until 90 days before separation from the Army.
One question many Soldiers ask, regardless of the branch they are interested in, is whether they will lose rank when they join the reserve component. Normally, ARA is able to find positions that don’t require a loss of rank. They also have a very high success rate in helping Soldiers change job specialties when they join the Army National Guard or Army Reserve.
Soldiers can check on either of these options by knowing the geographic area they plan on moving to. Once this is determined, ARA personnel can help Soldiers identify what positions are open to them. “The important thing is knowing what positions are available and meeting the requirements for those positions,” said Spencer.
Regardless of the positions Soldiers choose, they are important to the Army. (From www.dtic.mil.)
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